Top striker wanted to beat the Blues

Chelsea's Eden Hazard returned to his favoured winger role on Wednesday but could not find a way past Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn.
Chelsea's Eden Hazard returned to his favoured winger role on Wednesday but could not find a way past Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Chelsea boss Sarri eyes reinforcements after stalemate with Saints, but board has final say

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri admitted Chelsea need attacking reinforcements after they wasted a chance to cement their place in the Premier League's top four with a 0-0 draw against struggling Southampton on Wednesday.

Alvaro Morata was back in the league starting XI for the first time since the defeat at Wolves on Dec 5, replacing the injured Olivier Giroud. But he fluffed two good chances and had another contentiously ruled out for offside.

Eden Hazard was twice denied by 22-year-old goalkeeper Angus Gunn, who had a top-flight debut to remember for the Saints, rejuvenated under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The Blues, the lowest scorers in the top six with only 38 goals, failed to score for the third time in their last five home league games.

The tepid and one-paced performance raised more questions about the need for a top-class striker on a day they splashed out £58 million (S$99.7 million) on Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic.

"The club knows my opinion. I think we need something else for our (attack)," Sarri said when asked if he would consider recalling on-loan forwards Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham.

It was only last week that the Italian said he would not enter the market for a centre forward.

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    Chelsea's league goal tally, the lowest among the Premier League's top six.

He made it clear the responsibility for new signings lies with owner Roman Abramovich, saying: "It depends on the board, not on me. I have to think of the training. I have to try to improve my players in the offensive phase.

"We played a good match for 80 minutes, then we were in trouble in the last 20. We have to try to solve the problem. We were in control of every match recently, but it was not easy to score the first goal."

Hazard has often been cast in the centre forward's role, with Morata scoring only seven goals this term and none in the league since Nov 4.

On his recall, the former Real Madrid star looked completely bereft of touch and confidence.

Hazard looked more vibrant back in his favoured winger role, but failed to torment the Saints once again despite having been involved in seven goals against them in the last six matches in all competitions.

While successive away wins at Watford and Palace made it a happy Christmas for Chelsea, their first home game of the new year was a lot like their last in 2018.

Despite dominating Leicester on Dec 22, they were beaten 1-0 as they failed to break down the visitors' defence.

The boos rang out at full-time as Cesc Fabregas, who came on as a 68th-minute substitute for his 500th club appearance in English football, was waving to the home fans. He wants to join Monaco this month and hopes the club can sign a replacement.

Chelsea remain in fourth on 44 points, just three ahead of Arsenal in the race to qualify for the Champions League. And they still have to visit both the Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Liverpool.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2019, with the headline 'Top striker wanted to beat the Blues'. Print Edition | Subscribe